Kobe Bryant, My Hero

The notification one the man’s phone sang a tune.

Apparently, it played the same jingle each time a notification came from the BBC World app because he recognized it immediately without looking at his phone.

Before he pulled it out of his pocket, “Ah BBC World. If it’s from them, you know it’s important!” He said with a chuckle.

He chose to read the notification out loud. When he did, the mood completely changed. “Kobe Bryant dies in aa helicopter accident. Multiple dead.”

My ears perk up. I was merely half-listening before; now he has my full attention.

The man turns to me, “I don’t know who that is. Do you?”

I was in shock, literal shock at the news. This can’t be. Kobe was just tweeting and on Instagram recently. He was happy and healthy with his family.

I quickly grab my phone. This must be some weird joke. My phone’s been on silent, I’ve been missing the notification from apps and friends. It’s true. But I still chose not to believe it.

“Are you sure its Kobe Bryant? Kobe Bean Bryant?” I ask, hoping that the man somehow accidentally said the wrong name.

The man looks at me with concern, “Are you going to be okay? You look visibly upset and shocked.”

I don’t know what condition was in, but I felt genuine confusion and disbelief. Kobe Bryant was just in the news a day ago. There’s no way he’s gone.

In the moment, I gather my breath and chose not to burden the man with my feelings, my oh so many feelings, “Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest basketball players of all time. I was fortunate to have him on my favorite team for 20 years. I don’t think we have enough time for me to explain how much I’ve learned from him. He is my hero.

The man nodded in understanding and left the room.

I sit.
I check multiple sources.
I can’t help the tears beginning to fall.
Kobe is dead. One of my biggest heroes is gone.

 

Sometimes it is hard to explain the importance of a person in your life.

You could say a partner means the world to you because they provide love and affection.
Or a child can provide you with possibility and a future.
While God can provide purpose and a standard.

However, how do I begin to explain the importance of someone who I’ve never met? It almost seems silly to have allowed me to be influenced by someone so much, even to the point of today’s tears. A person who has never once cried for me. Is it wrong to have such strong feelings for a man who doesn’t know my name or even recognize my face?

Wrong or not, here I am. Broken hearted, shocked, and confused at the passing of Kobe Bryant, I still don’t want to believe it. It feels wrong. I pray for his family and the families of those involved in the accident and hope this is just a bad dream.

 

Kobe Bryant is one of my heroes for a variety of reasons. I’ve learned so much about basketball from him. I learned how to compete from him. I learned life skills from him.

The most important lesson that Kobe taught me was work ethic. As I grew into adulthood, I realized I had a problem. I don’t know how to consistently work hard. Sure there were people in my life that I worked hard with for a moment, a day, or for a short term goal. I have always been one of those people who is good at everything. I rarely needed to apply any extra effort outside of my casual talent.

I needed to learn how to work hard daily. I needed to learn how to work hard for a goal that is months, or even years away. I needed to see what it is like to work day in and day out on a goal that may take years to achieve. I needed a lesson on how to consistently work to a goal even when I failed time after time.

Kobe showed me that.

With every private gym session that was leaked to the public, with his consistent study of his craft, with his zero tolerance for those who chose not to work hard, Kobe taught me how to give my all in what I do, every day and night.

Work hard daily, never give up until the mission is complete. When you fail one way, try something different. When you see others outperforming you, learn a new trick to step ahead of them. When you finally find success, find a way to push yourself to achieve higher success.

That’s the most important lesson Kobe’s taught me. Every other lesson starts and ends with this one.

 

I like my heroes to be flawed. You see character in their lows. I remember one of the lowest times in Kobe Bryant’s life. As a fan, I only witnessed a piece of what he went through. He was caught committing adultery, he lost a child in a miscarriage, he lost the NBA finals, he lost some great teammates.

From my perspective, I had never seen a more popular man so alone.

Kobe Bryant showed me even the greats will fail. Some of these failures are bigger than others. Some failures are more public than others. Yet redemption can still be found in every single one.

At this point, he achieved enough success that he could walk away and still be considered a Hall of Fame player. He could start a new life outside of the limelight with less pressure to perform. Instead, he went to work.

Over time he was redeemed. He put in the effort and changed who he was. He showed his teammates a new side and he earned a new appreciation. He mended his broken relationship in his family. He eventually added more championships to his resume for the Los Angeles Lakers.

He owned up to his actions. Admitted his faults. Gave people the time they needed away from him. After taking ownership, he worked hard to gain respect. He worked hard to become someone new. His redemption didn’t happen overnight. It was at least a year of separation from his wife. It was years before he made the championship round again, and more until he actually won. He worked, every day, even when there seemed to be no progress form the day, month, or year before.

He worked hard.

I don’t believe in retirement anymore. One of the reasons why is because of Kobe. Once he walked away from basketball, he completely walked away. He didn’t keep one foot in the past, he moved on, acknowledging one volume of his life is complete. The next volume brought new ideas.

Kobe earned more than enough to sit and enjoy the rest of his life doing whatever he and his family wanted. Yet instead, shortly after he left the NBA, he became a writer and businessman. He started a sports drink company. He won’t prose which eventually turned into an Oscar winning animated short film.

I think that is one of the luxuries of giving your all in one area. You have the freedom to say, that is done, I can now fully give myself to the next stage in life. I can adjust my goals to the moment I’m in and work just as hard before in a new area.

To me, retirement should not exist. Rather, reinvention should take its place. It allows you to keep working hard, keep the mind creative, to constantly be learning.

It’s the lesson Kobe Bryant continually teaches me. Work hard every day on whatever your passion is.

Rest in peace, my hero.
Heroes may die, but legends, and lessons, live forever.

Choose Your Own Adventure!

I was chatting with a friend about my road trip. A couple months driving across New Zealand is kind of all I’m talking about lately. It’s going well! I’m stopping and staying wherever. I’ve been fortunate to do some of it alone, other parts with friends, and other portions with strangers.

Back to my friend. They asked me “Isn’t that scary? All that you’re doing. I don’t think I could do it”

I responded with, “My first time around, it totally was.”

Years ago, I went on a month long road trip around the USA. I briefly mentioned it recent a conversational vlog talking about road trips with Robb G. At the time, I was pretty nervous about it. In fact, I was very nervous about it.

The purpose of the trip was to watch one of my great friends get hitched. It was super important to me to be there, but it as on the other side of the country from where I lived. I did more planning for this trip than I have on any trip before or since.

Though I crossed my T’s and dotted my I’s, I was having trouble committing to the actual trip.

About this time, I was in the “pre-relationship” phase with a girl. I confided in her and confessed my apprehension about the trip. Of course, I made it as light hearted as possible, exaggerating the countless potential downfalls awaiting me at every turn.

Comedy is my coping mechanism.

One of the things I was most nervous about was a particular 11 day stretch. Over the course of those 11 days, I would not see a single person I previously met in my life.

That scared me.

For the most part, you see people you know every day. Friends you hang with, the local market folks who recognize you, or your neighbors. Oh yeah, family too! Going a single day without seeing a single person you know is rather difficult when you think about it.

This isn’t just an extrovert/introvert thing. I’m a social introvert, I prefer the company of a few close friends and regular solitude to recharge. However, 11 days where I would not see a single person I know was unprecedented.

A long period without a community is like a bit purgatory to me.

That was a few years ago, and in my opinion, not even close to the grandest trip that I’ve done. Yet when it comes to trips, I’ve never been more nervous than that one. I think it’s specifically because of those 11 days.

Nevertheless, I still did the trip! I mustered the strength and courage necessary to jump into my red MINI Cooper and drive more than 2,000 miles around the US.

Choosing that adventure, wasn’t easy. In fact, I probably made it harder than it needed to be on myself. I slept in hospital parking lots, truck stops, and camping in different locations throughout the country. I could have stayed in airbnb’s, hostels, or hotels, but I didn’t. I chose a different type of adventure.

Despite my travels and tales, I have trouble believing I’m adventurous.

The aforementioned girl and I dated for some time. Eventually, we ended. I didn’t have the same thirst for adventure as she, which she felt was enough to walk away.

Maybe this is why I don’t believe it when people describe me as adventurous.
Maybe I’ve been choosing adventure to prove to her, and my subconscious self, I am an adventure worth having.
To be real honest, maybe I’m just scared and traveling is my way of constantly running away. Could adventuring  be another word for hiding? A topic for another post.

I don’t hold it against the girl for ending it back then. I’ve definitely had my share of relationships that lacked the adventure I wanted. In those relationships, I felt bored.

Whenever I feel bored, I think of one of my college buddies who always told me, “Only boring people get bored.”

In this “boring” relationship, I remember sitting down with her by my side, her parents sitting on the adjacent couch, and together we watched the Laker game.

If anyone knows me, they know that I love playing and watching sports. The Lakers are one of my favorite teams! I have many great memories embedded in my mind because of them.

Despite doing something I regularly enjoy, I felt bored. I looked around, saw her parents, and used the moment as a forecast for my future with her. I said quietly to myself, “If I stay with this person, this will be my life. I’ll work a 9-5 and come home to a wife who does the same. We’ll talk about our days as we prep a meal. Then she’ll fall asleep next to me as I cheer for my favorite sports teams.”

This seems boring.

That younger version of myself didn’t understand how to choose adventure. Years later, I realized how wrong I was. It definitely took time to see it, but only boring people get bored.

My learning process started with making fun of my best friend Cameron for never leaving a one mile radius of his house. He met a lovely woman and married her right out of college. Together, they chose to start an adventure that’s led them to today where they have three little ladies, two dogs, and a plethora of fish in a tank.

Every day Cameron chooses adventure. He chooses to father his children, to teach the dogs how to sit, and to clean the fish tank.
His life is such an adventure!

My other bestie, Stefan, studied with me at Azusa Pacific. He worked harder than anyone else I knew in school. He lives in Colorado Springs, the town where he grew up. A place where he can drive around and say “I went to this place as a kid.” Despite this city being one where many young people leave for the more popular Denver just an hour’s drive north, he chooses the adventure of staying.

Today, he works hard, as does his wife, to provide and raise a child.
An owner of a house, a married man, with a beautiful baby, Stefan lives a life of adventure.

Somedays, I have to remind myself, I am an adventurous person. (to be honest, I have to remind myself of a variety of things like I am a good photographer, I am a good comedian, I am a good cook.) I just choose adventure that differs from many people’s definition of adventure.

Adventure is where you stretch yourself beyond which you thought was capable.
Adventure is choosing to do the hard thing; the thing that you’re afraid to do, the thing those around you aren’t doing.
Adventure is in the every day.

I’ve learned any person can be adventurous in any stage of their life. Adventure isn’t just climbing a mountain. It isn’t just hiking the Machu Pichu trail with gusto! There is adventure in moving to a new country for some and for others adventure is staying in the same town your were raised.

Choose your own adventure.

2020 Phrase of the Year

Apparently it’s common for people to have a word or phrase of the year.

I’m big on goals for the year, you’ll see a vlog on that later, but a phrase that is supposed to represent you for an entire year. That’s intriguing.

I think it’s a neat idea. You can run big decisions of the year through the filter of the word or phrase. It would help a people keep focused on their phrase of “positivity”, “community”, or any other word they might.

I assume people take a lot of time to thoroughly ensure they have the right word for this point and time in their life.

Alright, I picked mine. Drum Roll Please!

2020 Phrase of the Year: Show Me Some (Fluffy) Passion!
(PG edit because my nephew is 6, and I like to imagine he is an avid reader of his uncle‘s blog.)

Long ago, I read a person’s comment on Reddit about something that changed their life.

Technically, not something, rather, some words. 

They decided they would post the words Show Me Some (Fluffy) Passion in their house. If my memory serves me right, they posted it in their bedroom so they could see it every day.

Each day they woke, read the words reminding them to show passion.

The redditor mentioned after some time, they noticed change in multiple areas of their life.

Work changed because they were reminded to show the passion that once earned him the job. Married life changed because they showed the passion felt instead of letting it sit. Their life changed because they started looking for things they were passionate about and pursuing them.

Humor me for a moment, as I dive into the phrase.

Show Me

Every 20-something year old with a guitar will tell you they’re passionate about music. Others may talk about the outdoors, social justice, and community as their passion.

In many cases, a 30-something year old passion may have live a life directly impacted by their passions. Or they could be discovering their passion for the first time. (I’m a year away from my thirties, and I’m in many ways just learning and pursuing my passions.

For most people 40’s and above family life has really kicked in gear, and the passion of old isn’t the same. It’s changed direction.

The point of the Show Me, is to prove it. A stranger should be able to walk into your life, follow you for a day/week/month and at the end of it say, “You’re passionate about music/family/money.”

To say you’re passionate about a topic is one thing. To go out there and show it is entirely different.

 

Some

We have the ability to be passionate about a lot of things. What we don’t have is the capacity for showing our full passion in every single category. There’s just not enough time in the day. That’s why some is so important.

Choose a few of your passions to focus on. Some of them will pan out into something greater! Which is very cool. Some of them will not. No worries, a passion doesn’t have to equal a business or amazing performance. If you decide a passion is done, cool, we have another passion that can take its place.

Show some of your passion daily. If your passion is dog walking, Don’t spend 10 hours on dog training once and then be over it for a month. Show some today, some the next day, next week, next month. Get in the habit of continually showing some.

Plan to show it.
Make time on the calendar for it.
When you have free time, study it.

Put some effort into your passion. Otherwise, your passion is just a wish.

 

 

If you’re passionate about music make the best music you possibly can. Then grow in the passion and learn more. Get better.

If your job is your passion, walk into work and show yourself. Make you believe again, you are passionate about what you do.

When your passion has a new focus, devote yourself to it. If your passion is those around you, show passion for family by changing as they change. By loving them where they are as they grow to find and chase their passion.

Showing passion isn’t an extravagant moment. It’s daily. It’s a grind. It’s hard.

It’s not going out with the boys because you want to get one more shot of the night sky. It’s not finding ways to leave work early, but learning ways to better employment. It’s learning the more about why the heck your child is excited about seeing a penguin in Minecraft.

 

 

(Fluffy)

Now, I shouldn’t have to explain what this word really was when the person wrote it. It’s what I like to call a “heightening” word.

It emphasizes anger, excitement, disappointment, shock, horror. It takes the feelings of wherever its placed to the next level.

Some of you need to add more fluffy to your pursuit of passion. Heighten your pursuit. Go to the next level. Don’t stay in one spot with your passion, until it’s time to set the passion aside.

So seek help. In our Information Age, there are too many resources available for you to stop learning.
Google exists.
YouTube exists.
Pinterest exists.
The information is ripe for your picking. Go out there a fluffy do it!

Get on yourself and do it. Amp yourself up.  Heighten your focus. Get in there and fluffy work.

Passion.

Passion is like abs. You have them. You can’t tell me you don’t, because all of us do. Some of us are just learning where they are and how to show them. Others of us have been showing them off for years and posting pictures on Instagram of them. Some of us forgot we have them when we stopped pursuing them and lost them under thick layers of laziness.

Nevertheless, our abs and passion are there.

 

So this is my 2020 Phrase of the Year: Show Me Some Fluffy Passion.

I’m hitting the point in my life, where I need to be pursuing these passions. Pursue, lest I forget I have them. Pursue daily, a grind that allows me to grow in them; grow with them.

These passions are mine. They were given to me and are my responsibility. No one else has passions exactly like mine.

 

Once more:

Show. Me. Some. Fluffy. Passion.

The Expat Experience

Let me be the first to tell you, I LOVE BEING ON A PODCAST.

Seriously, it’s like one of my favorite things to do! You put together the plan, you go through the process, you practice the questions, then when you’re finally ready, you record the podcast.

So. Much. Fun.

Podcasts have taken the world by storm and it seems like everyone has one they want to recommend! I was at dinner the other day with a friend, and during a short pause, he looked at me quite seriously and asked, “What podcasts are you listening to?”

In this particular dinner, I mentioned The Expat Experience.

As an expat myself, I enjoy hearing other expat stories and being encouraged by what they say! I am so very fortunate, to have been a guest for 2 of such type of podcasts: Melanated Stamps, a podcast about American minorities traveling abroad. The other is The Expat Experience.

The Expat Experience was started by Amelia J., a Canadian who is currently living in Germany. When she posted in a digital nomad facebook group about starting a podcast, I leaped at the opportunity to add a topic that should be discussed, loneliness. Amelia agreed that it was a good topic and asked me to join the podcast for a discussion.

Here it is:

Wasn’t that great? Yeah! I think so too.

I’ve had many conversations with people about living abroad. As Amelia mentions, loneliness is a bit of a taboo topic amongst expats and nomads. But why?

Maybe because we’re supposed to be having the ‘time of our lives’?
Maybe because if admit to feeling lonely, we’re admitting defeat and therefore need to go back home?
Maybe because we don’t have a deep connection of friends to confess our true feelings?

Whatever the reason may be, I fully believe expression of truth allows for one to grow and be free.

I had a chance recently to visit with a man I consider to be a mentor. Let me rephrase that, he visited me! Here! IN NEW ZEALAND!! Conversing with him, seeing him, and hugging him was so warming to the soul.

He brought up another acquaintance who’s doing a journey from Cape Town to Cairo in Africa right now. I’m not sure what inspired him to do that kind of journey, but that is awesome. My mentor looked at me and asked me, “It’s gotta be lonely, right? This life that you guys have chosen.”

My answer: “Yes, all the time.”

They say everybody is fighting their own battle, so be kind because you don’t know what they are fighting. I can tell you right now, most expats and nomads are fighting loneliness.

This isn’t a post about “Woe is me! I’m so lonely in another country.”
This is an awareness post.

Depending on who you are, I want you to take away something from this podcast and post.

  • If you’re an expat feeling lonely, know you’re not alone. Plenty of expats and nomads around you are going through the same thing. It’s going to be okay. I promise! But you NEED to reach out to someone and open up. You don’t need to divulge every detail of your life, but be honest enough to say, I am struggling in this moment.
    Even if the burden you’re carrying is shared with someone who is also a nomad, and will leave your location in a hour/week/month, having the weight lifted off your shoulders for a moment is better than holding on to it alone longer than you need.
  • If you’re a person who has a friend living their dream abroad! Call them. Call them now. I don’t care what time it is, do it. They miss you. Conversations you have, don’t always have to be hours long. There is something precious about receiving a spontaneous text, voicemail, call that says, I’m just here to make sure you’re okay.
    Whether they confess their feelings to you or not, call them. Then do it again in a month. They’ll appreciate it.

  • If you’re about to start your journey prepare yourself. Send a message to your friends asking for their help before you need it. In fact, proof that I practice what I preach, this is what I wrote to my friends who named ourselves the #DolphinGang: (Yes, even in post with my friends, I am referred to, and I refer to myself, as Oneandonlynunez 🙂
    Don’t be discouraged, you’re going to ROCK THIS LIFESTYLE.

We’re not meant to live this life alone, support each other!

Healing

Let me know if you’ve experienced this: You go out with an acquaintance/friend/someone, you spend some time around them and you leave telling yourself: “Wow, they have so much wrong them, it explodes onto me when I’m around them,” “They need to work on themselves, because they always bring the mood down,” or maybe even “Spending time with them is always draining”?

Whether it comes from a judgmental place, or becoming more aware of those you allow around you, you can be honest here, we’ve all felt that at one time or another.

Much to my surprise, and delight, I recently experienced the opposite.

I recently started on an epic journey! Touring New Zealand relying on wits, the generosity of people and the grace of God. So far it’s taken me from one suburb of Auckland to another. My journey of 1,000 miles began with a 15 min drive to a new house down the road!

On this journey, I’ve been praying for some things:
1. For peace and protection while I travel around. These are generally nice things to pray for.
2. For people to travel with. I’ve traveled to about 20 countries, let me tell you, the best memories come when you have people by your side.
3. To be open to life changing and big conversations. I don’t want to shy away from those who want to have conversations about faith, death, sexuality, family, or whatever is on their mind. Strangers can make great conversationists and you never know when a conversation can change you.

Recently on this journey, I met another traveler willing to take a chance on getting in a car with a stranger. Together, we hiked, toured some cities, and drank wine on an island. It was a good way to start my road trip.

Before the traveler joined me, I mentioned to them. “Naturally, I’m an introvert. So, there may be times when I just need to be alone or walk away from everything and just recharge in my room. Take the time to do whatever you’d like. Don’t feel bad that I want to be away from you, it’s not you, I just appreciate my solitude.

They admitted they felt the same and would also let me know when they needed to be reading a book in a corner or walk to the nearest cafe to sit alone. It was a great conversation, we made our boundaries and desires known, and we were on our way

Side note #1: learn to set boundaries in your life. Set them with friends, family, and strangers. Hold to them. It’s worth it. Also, respect others’ boundaries.

After spending quite a bit of time with this individual, I noticed something. I didn’t feel the need to escape to the safety of my solitude. My time alone often includes my exploring the distant corners and thoughts of my mind. Yet, around this person, I was ever present.

Toward the end of the time I spent with them, I had a moment where I felt healthy. I was not drained by this time with spent around a stranger. I wasn’t seeking asylum under the covers in the arms of my bed. I was happy to simply exist where I was. It felt healthy.

Funny that I felt “healthy” because previous to this moment, I didn’t feel sick.

Side note #2: I think sometimes we get so used to being sick/in pain/tired we forget what healthiness looks like in specific situations of our life. It’s common for me not to realize I’m experiencing normal human things. (I say ‘human’ as if i’m not one.) Nevertheless, at the end of my days, you can often hear me ask myself, “Did I eat today?” Hunger is a human feeling that can often slip my mind.
Pain, on the other hand, that is hard to go unnoticed. Despite how commonly I’ve experienced it in my life, each ounce of it is an uncomfortable gut wrench that is both unfamiliar and familiar at the same time, each time. Yet despite this discomfort, we make pain comfortable and sit in it. Why do we endure? well, that’s a post for a different day

As I spent time around this stranger I noticed I felt better. Not better about myself because I judged their life choices. Not better because they finally left me alone. I felt like a healthier person after interacting with them. Each of us have felt what I described earlier, the drain of spending time with certain persons. But do many of us have a person that can help reenergize us? Maybe I’ve felt it before, maybe I just haven’t recognized it.

This time I did.

It’s as if the time I spent traveling was actually me checking into rehab, completing the 12 step program, and walking out the other side a burden removed from my shoulders. I was walking with a burden added without me recognizing.
*cue the music* i’m walking on sunshine ohhhh, ohhhh, and it makes me feel good, yeah, alright*

I sincerely hope I can be a person like that to others, while on this trip, and in my daily life.

I will say, one of the most curious things about suddenly feeling healthy, is not wanting to leave it. I find that the problem with getting healthy, is that when you’re finally 100%, you start to like it. You’re reminded that this is the person you like to be. You’re reminded that you’ve gone through some stuff and though you survived it, going through it takes it’s toll. Over time, most things in life do.

Once we’re healthy, we’re left with knowing we must go back through the grind, ever taking its toll on us. And whether it’s in the back of our minds, or at the forefront of thought, within ourselves we know we’ll slowly shrink away from 100%. It may be steps each day that lowers us to 99, then 98, then 97. Or we may go through a free fall down to 60.

So then why do leave the safety of 100? Why escape the safety of being separate from that which takes its toll.

Why don’t we stay in the place we can consistently be connected to what charges us and not brave the world of hurt people. After all, it is the people who are hurt who hurt people. It’s a cycle of pain that we progress ourselves.

Sometimes intentionally, other times on accident.

One of the wonderful things about facts, is that when a fact is true, often the opposite is true. If hurt people, hurt people, then loved people, love people.

It took me a while to see it this way. But this individual who helped me was well loved on their own and therefore capable of spreading their love

To slightly break myself out of my introvert mold and be more balanced, I told myself “if you see something you like, you have to say something.” Its simple, but effective.

I’ll complement a fresh haircut of a stranger. I’ll thank the bus driver for driving modestly (which doesn’t happen often, most bus drivers drive like it’s their last day on the job and they need to get to the next stop as fast as possible.). I’ll let a person know I like their art. It’s a small moment that can change a person’s day for the better.

I caught myself walking down the street of the Central Business District in Auckland. Within a group of people there was one person I admired. As usual, I couldn’t remember his name, but I stepped in front of him anyways and said, “Hey bud, we met months ago. You’re a photographer, I saw your work, it’s great stuff. Keep up the good work.” Immediately, I turned to walk away, I did my part and said I like something to the person who created it and was going about my business.

As I departed, he turned around and to me, “Thanks bro. You made my day, man!”

If a hurt person can ruin an entire day with only a few choice words, then a loved person can make someone’s day with a few choice words.

For me, this was just a simple walk to the grocery store. The first one since leaving my traveling friend. I was walking healthy down the streets of Auckland. As a loved person, I was able to love people. Continuing a cycle of love that can only be progressed through our actions.

That is why we leave our place of 100. Because there are people who need little encouragements, who need burdens removed from their shoulders, even if just for a moment. We leave our place of 100, to help others get to their 100. When we’re loved, then we have the love to give.

I’m glad I got healthy at the beginning of my epic road trip.

Remind Me, Who I Am

I get asked sometimes if I brought a lot of stuff with me from America.

Kinda?

I did bring 3 large suitcases, 1 75L backpacking bag and 1 tote. All full of stuff. However, all of it are thing I use frequently! Except for a few special occasion things (like my batman onesie) -That’s a topic for another post

One of the most important items I brought with me is a pair of canvas with notes glued to them.

F L A S H B A C K

It was the summer of ’10. I was working at Frontier Ranch in Scott’s Valley, CA. It’s a great summer camp for kids. Tons of fun! As a counselor there, I was able to play around with children, do sketch comedy, and meet other people from different states and countries. It was a total blast.

At one point during the day, there was ‘mail time’. It was the time when the kids would receive the care packages that their parents gave them so they didn’t miss home as much. For the counselors, it was a time when notes were handed out from other counselors or employees.

Often, these notes were a joke from friends, making fun of something a kid did the day before, or laughing at someone’s camp name.
Side note: My name was Scorching Raven, because I’ve always had a cool nic name in my life 😉 *except for the time as a freshman in high school when I tried to get “the surprise” as my nic name. It was my AIM username, my email address, and I’m sure I wrote it down on my Facebook originally. It never caught on.

Sometimes, those notes would be more meaningful. They would be little thank you’s for helping out here. Or perhaps a “you’re a great guy” thanks for letting me vent. Being a counselor is tons of fun, but it gets exhausting at times, and you rely on people to help you get through the week.

These notes were the most sincere ones, as people needed genuine time with someone aside from the chaos of summer camp with kids.

I kept plenty of those notes.

A year later, I worked nearby at a Kampground of America in Watsonville, CA. During that summer doing similar duties with a closer knit group, we would take time at the end of the summer to write more intentional notes to one another.

I kept those notes too.

F L A S H F O R W A R D 

I don’t like to keep trinkets or little souvenirs too often. Sure, I’ll keep the more meaningful ones, but if I come across something I own and I’m not (a) using it within a year or (b) can’t remember who gave it to me, it’s getting donated (Please stop trashing good things, when you can donate it)

However, one day after college, I was going through a lot of my school papers, and tossing them out. I found a bunch of these notes piled up. I started reading them. They read…

  • I’m thankful of Michael’s excellent positive outlook
  • I’ve never met someone so willing to listen and open to comfort as you…
  • Your love and acceptance for people is awesome…
  • We just wanted to let you know how handsome we think you are…
    (I promise I didn’t make this one up. PEOPLE ACTUALLY WROTE THIS)
  • Thanks for putting up with my high maintenance all summer…
  • …I just love being around you!

Post university life wasn’t great for me. I felt like I was poorly adjusting to my expectations of life, the reality of adulthood, and a horrible job. I was not happy. My unhappiness overflowed into my friendships, romances, and employment.

Then I found these notes. 

Reading the notes reminded me of how much I’d changed. People enjoyed being around me, people opened up to me, and I was known for being loving. I was reading these notes and I felt the urge to return to myself. I wasn’t sure how to but I needed to get back to being the person that people recognized me as.

I decided to glue those notes to a canvas and put those canvases on my wall. They were placed in a location where I would be forced to see that every day.

I was reminding myself of who I was.

P R E S E N T

I still have those canvases on my wall here in Auckland. I’ve added a few notes over time that are reminders of who I am and the positive ways people see me. They are just as helpful in my life now as they were in the past.

There are times when I don’t act like myself. When I act out irrationally, when I act with envy, or when I act out of hurt.
Even when I don’t act like myself, these notes remind me of who I am.

There are times when I admit to people, I’m an egotistical prick, who taunts others from my high horse, and sets out to push others down as the only way to be lifted up. Ouch.
Even when I don’t believe what they say, these notes remind me of who I am.

There are times when people don’t recognize who I am and in their moments of acting outside of who they are will call me something like worthless, stupid (I was called that a lot as a child), or useless, either in their words or in their actions.
Even when I’m told something different, these notes remind me of who I am.

There’s a verse in the Bible that says, “Put these words in your heart and in your soul. Bind them as a sign on your hand. Place them in front of your eyes.”

I came across this verse after I posted these canvas notes on my wall. To be honest, it makes sense why it would say to do this. With these reminders, I stay closer to who I am everyday. I am a better person in my friendships, romances, and employment. I am confident in myself because I’m reminded daily of who I am.

I will have days when my foundation is shaken. A person may act unlike themself and label me something I am not. I will have days when I don’t believe in myself.
Nevertheless, these notes will remind me of who I am.

The Life I’ve Always Wanted

Just a few months ago, I was chatting with my homeboi Cameron about a fantasy scenario I have sometimes.

No, not that type of fantasy!

This one, “If someone paid for all your expenses for one year. What would you do with your time?”

If I remember correctly, he wanted to learn a way to make a sustainable business, so when he returned to work a year later, he would have a second income that would allow him to work less and spend more time with his family.

Very clever.

Mine was definitely more fantasy driven: It starts with moving to a small town. At the time, I said Grand Lake, Colorado. If I had to choose a favorite spot in Colorado, it would have to be Grand Lake. Not only do I have some very fond memories here, I really enjoy the scenery. It’s too beautiful. There is a quaint town with 2 for 1 margaritas during happy hour at one restaurant and ice cream shop that my lactose intolerant body cannot resist!

Next, I’d get a job! I know, you’re asking, ” Wasn’t the point of this fantasy to not work?”  Yes. In a way. I would want a job in cozy coffee shop. I’ve always wanted to own a coffee shop. When I was young, I dreamed of calling it Ms. Abbey. So clearly influenced by The Beatles album. I love coffee and the ambiance shops provide. Many good things happen within the four walls of a café. In my opinion, they don’t receive the recognition they deserve in the States.

Working at a coffee shop would also be my community fix. A place where I can see regulars, have some lengthy chats about how things are going on the ranch, discuss local politics, and probably ward off offers from the older customers attempting to set me up with their daughters or granddaughters.

Yep, even in my crazy fantasy, I’m single.

I’d run a lot in this fantasy life. When I was younger, I remember watching my brother run a lot. He was preparing for a marathon when he was 17 or 18. I was at a very impressionable age, and wanted to be just like him. Since then, my fantasy has always included days with a nice run.

I would fill the rest of my days with writing. I always dreamed that in the slow times in my coffee shop, I would sit and write something. A book maybe, or a memoir. In my dreams, I was a bit older and had traveled the world, shot beautiful pictures which were hung on the wall of the café, and I would sit and write stories I lived or heard while I was abroad.

It’s a simple fantasy; I like it.

_______________

“Do you think I could quit my job and work a bunch of little jobs?” I asked my sister. “I think I’d have plenty less money to play with, but I’d be happier overall!”

I’ve asked my sister this question plenty of times throughout my life. In fact, I’ve tossed a lot of ideas her way. I have so many different ideas that pop through my head. Many of them I filter, while the rest my sister helps filter between “ridiculous” and “so ridiculous, it just might work.”

Moving to New Zealand was ridiculous enough to work.

This idea of working multiple jobs to make a living is something I’ve tossed around for a while. A while ago, I started working multiple side jobs to make extra side money so I can pay the ever growing student loan mountain. (APU, you’re great, but I debate if you’re worth the cost!) Therefore, I was already used to wearing different hats.

So many people take the path of working multiple jobs all the while hoping they can one day land a big one to cover all of their expenses. The 9-5 life is what many people work toward, but honestly, I’m exhausted by it.

I’m so tired of driving an hour or more to work and back everyday.
I’m so tired of working a job that brings no enjoyment or value to my life.
I’m so tired of being tired at the end of the day and not having the energy to live!

I’ve been blessed with good jobs for the past few years and sure the money is good, but how long will I make myself live to work and just get more money and more tired? The constant struggle between what I do and what I want to do has been going on since I’ve joined the work force.

I remember having a conversation with my father about this. I love the provision my father has given my siblings and me during our adolescence. However, even at a young age, I could see the toll it took on him. He was tired, all the time. Fortunately, as he got older, he was offer jobs that required to drive less, or work less. But it took many years to get there.

During the phone call with my dad, he told me that during his life he learned that a person should choose something they enjoy over the money. He felt like money chasing was helpful in providing, but he missed out on enjoying some parts of life.

My dad worked a minimum of 40 hours a week, that’s 2080 hours a year. Factor in the 2 hours of drive time one way, my dad spent a minimum of 130 days of the year with work. Work that he wasn’t enjoying.

130 days of the year, doing something you don’t enjoy. Let that sink in. 

“You know what I’ve learned, son? If you choose to work something you enjoy, you’ll be happier at work, which will help you be happier overall. I would choose happiness over money.” My dad said simply.

“DON’T TELL HIM THAT!!!” Exclaimed my mother, who we then learned was eavesdropping.

Different strokes for different folks. Despite the saying, money does bring a form of happiness to a lot of people. It brings the security they feel they need. It brings the stuff to fill their house. It allows the to dress the way they want. Money is the fantasy that many people have, and they chase it like I chase my dreams. Power to them! I hope they get it and I hope it brings the type of happiness they’re looking for.

It just doesn’t bring the happiness I’m searching for.

_______________

Originally, I entered the work force as a manager of a retail store in Southern California. Let me tell you, that was awful. Like seriously, terrible. I’m a firm believer that everyone should spend 1 year working in customer facing retail positions.

Retail put so much stress on me! Thieves taking merchandise (and punching me in the face – a story for another time perhaps), constantly unruly middle aged women wanting to report me for not giving them a deeper discount, and a boss that would alter my hours without telling me so my paycheck was less than I earned. (Not you Laurie, you’re a gem and I love you, and still think about you and tell stories about you!)

It was there that I felt a strong drain of my life.
Every. Single. Day.

I’ve never felt more depressed in my entire life. I literally felt my soul draining out of me with every shift I had. I knew there had to be something else I could do that would suck the life out of me.

Eventually, I made my way to Colorado. It was there I made a new home for myself and discovered that work doesn’t have to be as bad. I worked as a project coordinator and project manager for years. It was quite okay. It wasn’t bringing me happiness, but it wasn’t draining me.

I learned that I could be comfortable with what this job provided me. A good paycheck, and low stress. I’m no opposed to a comfortable lifestyle, but I have to admit, I wasn’t happy with this job.

It was at this job that I was chatting about our “no work for a year fantasy” with Cameron. Sometimes, I feel like you have to sit down and dream. Fantasize about what you would do for a year if you didn’t have a job or expenses. Once you conjure the fantasy, work on making your life as close as you can to that dream.

That day, I decided to. It’s led me to where I am today. I’m so thrilled about where I am today.

_______________

My life isn’t the exact fantasy I created back then. But its closer than I’ve ever been.

I’m not waking up early to work in a coffee shop. But I’m staying up til 2am to teach English to children in China, which is tons of fun!
I run or ride my bike nearly everyday, just for the health of it!
I am writing. As you can see from this post, I’m writing quite a bit. (and that’s just the writing you see. 😉 Wait till my other stuff comes out!)
I’m pursuing ventures and activities that excite me! Ones that have me looking forward to “Mondays.”

Sure, I’m making less money. Like, a lot less money. I think my mom’s heart would drop to know I’ll likely make around $50,000 USD less than last year job. Don’t worry, I’m doing fine! This isn’t a round about way to ask for money. I like to think the money I’ve “lost” is just an investment into me. And let me tell you, the return on investment so far is high!

I see the return in the mirror when I smile.

I find myself in a very happy spot. Doing the things I want to do. Hiking, learning Spanish, writing stories, performing improv comedy, eating dinner with my flatmates, writing a book, biking in the rain, running in day, exploring when I can.

I’m happy. And this is a feeling I could get used to.
This is a fantasy, I get to call my life.

Slander

It’s pretty common for humans to trash talk other humans. It isn’t right. It isn’t good or healthy. We all know it’s wrong. But we do it.

I love to study people and figure out what they’re thinking and feeling. Once I figure that out, I enjoy searching for why they feel that way in certain moments. How a person feels often dictates what they’ll say or do in a situation.

It’s pretty common in my generation, and specifically in my friend group, to be introspective and discover what’s going on inside of us that is causing us to make decisions. I like to study myself to understand why I’m making decisions deeper than the “I just wanted to.” My self discovery has led to a variety of revelations that have allowed me to grow into a better human. I’ll dive into this one:

Years ago, I was in a terrible on and off relationship with someone that made me feel horrible. Horrible. She was an expert at pushing the buttons that make me livid. I was frustrated all the time with her. To be fair, I’m positive she felt the same about me. I was pushing her buttons to get a reaction back. To make her feel how she made me feel. I thought, “If she could just feel how I’m feeling, she’ll realize it’s wrong, and she’ll stop doing this to me!”

It was a tennis match in which the more points we scored, the more we lost.

I was too immature then to realize what was happening. What I was doing wrong. Why we were doing wrong to each other. I was still in the “she did this”or “I’m the victim” mentality, which was unfair to her.

It was much later that I learned that I was making her feel bad, because I felt bad. Not all of my bad feelings were her fault. None of them were her responsibility either.

  • I insecure about her past relationships. So I felt bad.
  • I was unhappy with my job. So I felt bad.
  • I expected life to look differently. So I felt bad.
  • I didn’t have the friends I thought I’d had. So I felt bad.

I’m positive that there were plenty more than I’m not remembering. Overall, I just felt bad. She came into my life where I subconsciously wanted to spread my unhappiness around like candy from a piñata! When she would do even the most minor things to inconvenience me, I would lash out. Of course, in her own ways, she was equally unhappy with her life and she would lash out when I inconvenienced her. The keyword being: inconvenienced.

It’s not like we were reacting to the end of the world. We were lashing out to someone requiring us to do something we just didn’t want to do.

Together, we were miserable!
We chose to make each other miserable.
We knew how to make the other happy or sad and we consistently chose misery.
If misery loves company, it loved us!

Though we haven’t spoken in years and I’m certain she’s forgotten about me, for my part, I apologize. I was too immature to realize my wrong then.

If I am completely honest, there are still things I say or do because of my insecurities, misery, and dissatisfaction. Why? Well, because I’m human and I am still learning how to control myself. I will say, the process of learning my faults has helped me be more graceful to others when they trash me for reasons I don’t know.

I have plenty of critics. In my opinion, I’m not famous enough to have critics! But as long as there are humans on earth, there will be these moments where even the best person will throw a verbal stick and stone.
__________

Years ago, I was trying to enhance my photography skills. I like to say that when it comes to photography, I’m pretty lucky, but I’m working on becoming good. Because I want to become better, I bought a better camera. Because I’m not made of money, it was an older version of a top of the line series. I was so excited. I showed my friends and talked about what I could do with this camera. One particular friend used the opportunity to belittle my new purchase as simply a lust for technology.

I’ve always enjoyed tech, that’s true, I won’t deny that. But it definitely shocked me when someone who knew my story, my intentions, and how this camera was not cutting edge would slander me. Oddly enough, it stuck! This individual continued to speak a phrase they created and encouraged others to do the same. Though I’m not one to let words get to me, when my truer friends used these phrases, I was surprised and hurt.
__________

I love to travel. I love to see new places, meet new people, and soak in different experiences! Most people say they like to travel, but I’m one of those who chases after it, like a dog chasing a car. I know it’s not for everyone, plenty of people enjoy their lives at home. It takes a lot of effort to create a community in one spot. It takes years to establish yourself in an area and become a member of a specific society. That’s great for them!

Despite my understanding of people not wanting to travel, it doesn’t help them understand that I need it. So they mock me. I’ve heard so many discouraging things about traveling. I’m so pro-travel and daily encourage other to do the same, I was surprised that there is a community that is anti-traveling!

“You’re just blowing with the wind, having no direction.”
“No woman will marry you if you live a lifestyle like that!”
“If you don’t settle and save now, you’ll have nothing in the future.”

YIKES.

For a while, it seemed every encouragement I received to start my traveling adventure, there were plenty advocating the opposite.
___________

Though I don’t know with certainty, I imagine that these people were hurt by something in their lives. They were hurting enough that they showed that pain in the form of lashing out. Whether they realize it or not, they were taking out their pain in a simple unhealthy way. Maybe they were right. Maybe it needed to be said. Maybe it makes them feel better when they continue to say it.

There is always a better way to speak your mind and release your emotions. If something good is done for the wrong reasons, is it still good?

In the first scenario, I imagine the person felt insecure about their photography passion. After this person saw me move on my way to starting a photography business and go out for different shoots, they opened up and showed me their camera and photos. They were great! Through their attempt to be humble, I questioned if their previous comments were because they wanted to achieve my goal, but never did. Perhaps their lack of success led to them coining a phrase to make fun of someone who did what they didn’t.

Maybe each time they say it, they’re covering up their individual failure to chase a dream they had. And in that one moment, when the words come out, they feel good about themselves.

In the second scenario, I think the people didn’t know how to say, “I’ll miss you.”

Something as simple as that. I believe that instead of mustering the courage to say how they felt, these people reasoned within themselves that it was better to discourage me from leaving.

I don’t want to give these people escapes for their behavior. They need to reconcile their issues in any way they can.

However, I can definitely use this to examine myself better.

We are living in an era where slander is rampant! You can’t spend more than five minutes on any social media platform without reading about someone trash talking someone else. It’s as if it’s the trendy to do. If someone inconveniences your lifestyle, is slightly different from you, or believes in something else the response is to slander them!

If we take just a moment to monitor what we are feeling, what we are truly thinking, we can understand that what we are saying/doing/posting to someone isn’t because of anything the other person has done. Rather, it is a reflection of ourselves.

A reflection that we are uncomfortable seeing.

Speaking slander against any person isn’t helping your cause, isn’t helping them change, isn’t helping a person understand your point of view. There’s a better way to say it. It starts with looking within.

Dreams are Hard

If I’m being honest with you, this is a lot harder than I thought it would be.

People told me to pursue my dreams! They didn’t tell me it would be difficult to start them.
People told me that I’m going to have so much fun chasing this desire! They didn’t tell me how hard it is to stop yourself from turning back.
People say they admired my journey and wish they could do the same. In a short time, I’ve learn to respond with, “It’s not easy.”

Read more

The First Interview: Cameron